Long Shot (2019)

Director: Jonathan Levine

Cast: Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, June Diane Raphael, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgard

Screenplay: Dan Sterling, Liz Hannah

125 mins. Rated R for strong sexual content, language throughout and some drug use.

 

Long Shot kind of came out of nowhere. I don’t think anyone expected to be such a crowd-pleaser but reviews have been pretty solid for the film. I finally got a chance to catch it in the theater, and while I don’t it is ground-breaking comedy, it was still quite a chuckler.

Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron, Monster, Atomic Blonde) is planning on running for President when currently-seated President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk, Incredibles 2, TV’s Better Call Saul) decides not to attempt a second-term run. Charlotte’s biggest opportunity heading into the race is that she is considered cold and the public doesn’t connect with her, so when she comes across someone she knew from her youth, recently-out-of-a-job journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth, Rogen, This is the End, Like Father), she takes him on as her speech-writer to help connect her to voters. Then, as they work more and more closely together, they find that they each bring out the best of each other, but is Flarsky a liability for Charlotte’s White House run?

The term I would use to describe the central relationship of Long Shot is cute. I genuinely believed the chemistry between Theron and Rogen, and their scenes together were cute. I think director Jonathan Levine (50/50, Snatched) mined the relationship and the screenplay from Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah for some pretty solid comedy gold. This is a surprisingly good role for Charlize Theron, considering we haven’t seen much from her in a romantic comedy aspect. Yes, there have been films like Young Adult and Tully, but those roles have been much more tied into her dramatic performance than the guffaw-style laughs she goes for here.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a level of drama to Long Shot, but it is clear that the film is not taking itself as seriously as the films I have previously mentioned. It’s taking shots at our current political climate, lampooning and laughing at the current administration with its President Chambers, and Alexander Skarsgard (The Aftermath, TV’s True Blood) is rather silly and playful as the Prime Minister of Canada. Not everything works in the film, and some of the comedy dries up near the end as the film somewhat struggles to find its ending, but the last ten minutes were a fantastic finale that plays into its romantic comedy elements while also remaining somewhat unexpected.

The film also features a scene-stealing performance from the enigmatic and often-unrecognizable Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes, The Adventures of Tintin) as Peter Wembley, a media mogul who bought the paper that Fred previously worked for and also wants Charlotte on his team, politically-speaking. He doesn’t have a lot of scenes but every time he popped up, I lost it laughing. His performance is the best of the film, and some of the things he does are slimy as can be.

Long Shot limps a bit in its second act. It struggles to find its footing in order to get to a reasonably-satisfying conclusion, but thankfully it finds a great ending to land on, saving a fun romantic comedy that strives to be about more than just romance and comedy. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how successful it is in that respect, but I found it quite funny. I would temper your expectations for all the people saying it’s the best romantic comedy in years, but it works quite well all the same.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Jurassic World (2015)

jurassicworld2015c 

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, Vincent D’Onofrio, Omar Sy, B.D. Wong, Irrfan Khan

Screenplay: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly

124 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.

 

It has been 22 years since the events of Jurassic Park, and now John Hammond’s vision has been fully realized. Jurassic World has been up and running for about a decade, and has been run by Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help, 50/50) to great success. Now, though, with declining numbers, the park’s owner Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan, Life of Pi, The Amazing Spider-Man) wants something new and bigger to boost attendance. He has enlisted Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong, Mulan, Focus) with the task of genetically hybridizing a new dinosaur species called the Indominus Rex, but this new species is much smarter than they could have realized, and now a raptor trainer named Owen (Chris Pratt, TV’s Parks and Recreation, Guardians of the Galaxy) must help Claire find her nephews, Nick (Nick Robinson, TV’s Melissa & Joey, The Kings of Summer) and Gray (Ty Simpkins, Insidious, Iron Man 3), who are missing in the park.

In this third sequel to the Jurassic Park franchise, we see something that has been almost promised for just as long: a fully functioning theme park, exactly what John Hammond would have wanted. It is a completely new experience for fans of the series, and it offers a cadre of new set pieces for director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) to completely destroy.

Chris Pratt gives another leading man performance that proves he has the chops to continue raking in the dough. Now Owen isn’t played as well to Pratt’s strength, and he comes off rather wooden at the beginning of the film before really finding his character beats as the film progresses. His chemistry with Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire is pretty strong, though the developed romance between feels way contrived in the grand scheme of the story.

jurassicworld2015a

The supporting players all mostly give in to the conceit of the film and perform admirably. Our child actors Robinson and Simpkins do enough to get by, though Simpkins underwhelms when compared to previous work in the Insidious franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Vincent D’Onofrio (TV’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Run All Night) is great as the slimy Hoskins who wishes to use Owen’s raptor skills to train the beasts for militaristic purposes. He is matched perfectly by Irrfan Khan’s Masrani, an eccentric billionaire very similar to Hammond and who wishes to follow in his footsteps and do right by him. The term “Spare No Expense” comes to mind several times.

B.D. Wong returns to the franchise from the original film as the genius Dr. Wu, a character much expanded upon from the original source novel by Michael Crichton. In this film, Wu defends his place in the history books as the clever mind behind many of the park’s greatest attractions.

Now the dinosaurs here as missing much of the Stan Winston touch that made them so magical in the 1993 film. They still look amazing from the terrific visual effects work, and some of them, like the mighty aquatic Mosasaurus, but it is something I missed. Looking back on Steven Spielberg’s original film, I still look in wonder at the magic on the screen, whereas here I know I am seeing CGI.

Michael Giacchino’s score is also a great feature of the film, subtly using John William’s original themes while adding notes of grandeur and chaos to reinvent it. When we first see the gorgeous set pieces accompanied by the original music, it made my heart skip a beat.

Flaws? Yeah, there are several. The use of the Gyrospheres being completely controlled by the attendees? Yeah, no safety features required there…not! This film makes several of the same mistakes that we’ve seen before, making the characters seem like they paid no attention to the mistakes made in previous installments.

JURASSIC WORLD - 2015 FILM STILL - Pictured: The Indominus rex dominates all creatures in her path - Photo Credit: Universal Pictures   © 2014 Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Thankfully, the film is much saved by how great the wins are. There are several faults at play, but overall this is the best film in the franchise since the original. The little pieces of homage to the T-Rex, Spinosaurus, Mr. DNA, John Hammond, and Ian Malcolm help validate this film as a strong installment in the series that holds its own and opens new avenues for the future of the story.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

So have you seen Jurassic World? What did you think? Did this film’s life find a way or go extinct in the process? Let me know!

 

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, click here.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑